[Tweeters] June (Solstice) Beetles

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Tue Jun 23 22:31:17 PDT 2015

My 2015 Summer Solstice ended very well, after a rough start.
I don't know who was in charge of making Father's Day and the Solstice the same day , but that was the deal this year. I spent most of the day in the Ahlzeimers version of the Father's Day part of the date. Nobody had too much fun around here, due to dementia details.
But then things got a lot better. For an Ahlzeimers caregiver , one of the things the people in the know will tell you is, when things get too antagonistic in the house, take a walk or something. Often referred to as tapping "the reset button". It (usually) works! When you get back to Ahlziemers home base , the war has often been forgotten.
Well all that was such an exciting start to my day, I had compleately forgot about it being the Solstice. Later I had diner with some new naturalist friends here in town (my reset), and we joked a bit about the Summer Solstice. Like, is the glass full of sunlight , or just about to be drained. Every day from here to Winter Solstice there will be shorter and shorter days. Cause for depression? Well maybe, but I'm already depressed, and am waiting until November, with major winter darkness coming on ( I call it 'entering the tunnel') to become more truly depressed. Actually, a great antidote for that is just to go "outdoors" a lot in Winter - November birding in the fog- you'll still get yer Vitamin D. Whatever. I am not a doctor, but it doesn't hurt to drink your glass of sunlight when you can, even on cloudy winter days.
Moving right along, after dinner provided by my new nature pal Ellen, we both bopped over to Ford Worden for a short nature stroll just before sunset. That was a good move.
We located some of that California Broomrape (a wonderfully weird parasitic plant ) blooming out by the lighthouse. The sun was just goin' down, highlighting a Savannah Sparrow, when I noticed what appeared to be a Rufous Hummingbird buzzing the sparrow. Turns out it was a big beetle.
Well, in cool wet side Washington state big insects are relatively uncommon, so I'm always thrilled to see some. Last July I posted about seeing some of these big Ten-lined June Beetles flying around the Point Wilson dunes. The only one's I've ever seen flying around have been here. With a wingspan almost half that of a Rufous Hummer, and a sort of rusty look, my first impression of what I was seeing really wasn't too far off. As we walked down the sandy trail, more and more June Beetles were swarming out off the dune vegetation, into flight.
At one point, a female beetle let me pick her up , and clung to my finger long enough to listen to. You see, as I posted last July, I'd read on Rob Sandelin's ol' website, that these beetles can make a sort of squeaky sound, so I held the bug up close to my ear. It squeaked! That was cool, but even cooler than that was a surprising hissing sound the beetle gal produced right next to my ear - sounded like a brief burst of letting air out of a bicycle tire. Lucky to have Ellen the naturalist there watching, as I couldn't see the insect next to my ear, because she noted the beetle slapping it's wing covers down as it produced the hiss, which corresponds perfectly to what I've later read about this behavior, surely designed to startle a predator .
Imagine being down at the beach when a Giant, somewhat the size of the Seattle Space Needle, with arms, picks you up and holds you next to his head. For myself, I would imagine: #1. Having a heart attack : #2. Fainting: #3. Pooping. Not necessarily in that order. Yet the brave female beetle had the moxie to hiss! Just a dumb bug responding to stimuli ? I suppose.
Well, anyhoo, we got back to Ellen's house (after staring at a spectacular Solstice sunset for a long while at the beach) just in time for dark and the loud calls of a Barred Owl - a wonderful sound. It was a long day, but a good one.
Jeff GibsonPort Townsend Wa
PS: the Ten-lined June Beetle is technically Polyphylla decemliniata . Lots more info online, as usual.

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